Reading U23 0-3 Sunderland AFC U23
Benji Kimpioka netted a hat-trick on his return to the Sunderland Under-23 side, as the young Lads ran out comfortable winners over Reading at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.
The win in Berkshire opens up a three-point gap between the Black Cats and Monday night’s opponents, who were blocked out for a large majority of the game by a rampant Sunderland team.
The U23s were playing their first game following the departure of 26-year servant Elliott Dickman, with Mike Dodds and Michael Proctor calling the shots from the dugout. Dodds elected for the back five system which performed so well in the second half to turn things around at Aston Villa 10 days ago, with Arbenit Xhemajli gaining an extra hour in the tank as part of the central trio.
Kimpioka led the line with Tyrese Dyce and Tom Scott in support, and it was between Dyce and Kimpioka how Sunderland fashioned an immediate early chance, the Swede creating space on the left and squaring it back, Dyce denied by a Harvey Collins save.
Kenton Richardson consistently looked to be an outlet in the right-wing-back role and was next to feed a supply line, crossing well for Kimpioka who could not arrange his positioning in time and chipped his effort over the bar.
But the angst was to be short-lived for the evening’s number nine fresh from his loan at Southend United. Dyce’s excellent work saw him dispossess the Reading defence and time his pass well for Kimpioka, this time rolling it into the corner past Collins.
Collins later denied the returning Cieran Dunne as he fired towards goal, denied a memento for his first action of the season following shoulder surgery. At half-time, Dunne’s productive 45 minutes would be followed by the same for Sam Wilding, who slotted into midfield after a hip issue which had kept him absent for several weeks.
The second half saw Sunderland step up the ruthlessness as Kimpioka weaved his way past two Royals players, eventually going down under a late challenge which saw the referee show no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
The striker dusted himself down to send Collins the wrong way, slotting the ball into the bottom-right corner.
And he was almost on for an immediate third, as Reading lost the ball from their restart and the inside of the post denied the Lads.
The team kept their shape phenomenally all night and limited Mehmet Ali’s hosts to very little going forward, Jacob Carney called into notable action once to deny Rashawn Scott, shortly after Dyce was denied by a last-ditch block at the other end.
And the hat-trick was complete on a memorable night for Kimpioka when he made something out of nothing from a tight angle, again showing great agility to bustle his way through and eventually elect to go himself rather than knocking it onto Dyce, firing his third into the net.
A welcome three points for the young Lads under Dodds and Proctor, who next head to Stoke City on Sunday.
SUNDERLAND AFC U23: Carney; Richardson, Almond, Younger, Xhemajli (Jessup 60’), Newall; Sohna, Dunne (Wilding 46’); Scott (Kelly 89’), Dyce, Kimpioka.
Subs not used: McIntyre.
Reading U23: Collins; Abrefa, Senga-Ngoyi, Holzman, Samuels; Araruna, Talent; Vickers (Camara 67’), Osorio, Scott (Purcell 67’); Ehibhatiomhan.
Subs not used: Rowley, Nyarko.